Popular Student Travel Agency USIT Goes Bust
Kinlay Group have applied for liquidation amid a stagnancy in the travel industry caused by COVID-19. USIT, a subsidiary company of Kinlay Group, is affected by this move with over 70 jobs set to be lost.
In a statement online on Friday, USIT announced that “as a result of the Covid-19 situation and having explored all other possible alternatives, it has had no option but to apply to the court to have a provisional liquidator appointed to these businesses.”
USIT is known to many university students for facilitating J1 Visas, which allows third-level students to work in the U.S. for up to four months during the summer months. 3,392 students participated on the J1 summer programme in 2019, which is down by almost 60% since 2013 when over 8,000 students headed stateside.
As USIT goes bust, it leaves hundreds of Irish students with little knowledge of what will become of their summer plans, and their deposits paid to USIT. According to the Kinlay group, “the outcome for customers who have booked with USIT is uncertain but management will provide as much support as possible to help customers assess their options.”
Kieran Wallace and Andrew O’Leary of KPMG have been appointed as provisional liquidators to the business. USIT’s management have said they will be supporting the joint liquidators “in order to get the best outcome for creditors in this situation.”
The move also affects The English Studio, a language school operating out of Dublin and London, which employs 31 staff in Ireland.
David Andrews, Chairman of Kinlay Group, has said that “only a short few weeks ago, both USIT and the English School were trading successfully and we had exciting plans for the future, but the tsunami of effects related to the Covid-19 pandemic have left us with no business whatsoever and no possibility of overcoming these challenges.”
Amongst numerous worldwide COVID-19 travel bans, a significant decline in revenue throughout the travel industry has left companies struggling to stay afloat.
Earlier this month, the U.S. temporarily suspended the widely popular J1 Visa programme in an added effort to tackle the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The U.S. Department of State said: “In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, [the U.S.] will pause programs for 60 days and review this decision every 30 days thereafter.”
The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced on Tuesday that universities, schools and crèches will remain closed until at least April 19th. Outdoor gatherings have also been limited to a maximum of four people unless individuals belong to the same household. Non-essential businesses are also now closed.
UCD President Andrew Deeks has said in his President’s Bulletin last week that the potential long-term impacts of COVID-19 for UCD could be “very serious” and have a severe impact on the university’s commercial activities. The President has appealed to recruitment staff to ensure international students, who make up over 20% of UCD’s annual income, attend the university next year. Deeks has also postponed the appointment of new academic staff under the Ad Astra Fellow scheme.
Earlier this week, the student group Fix Our Education UCD submitted an open letter to the university governing authority amid Deeks’ warnings of potential financial difficulties arising from the current COVID-19 pandemic. The group is calling for a reversal of the more than 12% rent increase on campus, a protection on funding for mental health and disability services, a protection on staff pay rates and a re-evaluation of university spending protocols.
The UCD campus is currently operating under “out-of-office” protocols, resulting in heightened restrictions on staff and student present on campus. The university’s libraries are also closed until further notice.
Updates on the COVID-19 university shutdown will continue over the coming weeks…
Conor Capplis – Editor